15 Different Types Of Headphones Compared & Explored

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Types of Headphones

Are you thinking about buying new headphones?

Are you wondering which type will be the best to fulfill your needs?

Throughout the years, I’ve noticed so many people trying to figure out which headphones would be ideal to choose based on so many different options.

I get it.

I realize this choice is a lot more difficult than it seems on the surface.

I’d like to help you as best I can by sharing information about the various types of headphones that you’ll want to consider.

Please take a moment to read about the different types of headphones that I go into greater detail about below.

Quick List: 15 Types of Headphones for Your Consideration

  • Bluetooth Headphones
  • Over Ear Headphones
  • In Ear Headphones
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones
  • Closed Back Headphones
  • Open Back Headphones
  • Wireless Earbuds
  • Wired Earbuds
  • Behind the Neck Headphones
  • Waterproof Headphones
  • Lightning Headphones
  • Bone Conduction Headphones
  • Wireless Workout Headphones
  • Wired Headphones for Running
  • Wireless Headphones for Running

Headphone Types Explored

Bluetooth Headphones

woman wearing bluetooth headphones

I thought about explaining how Bluetooth technology works, but then I realized a simple truth.

You don’t actually care!

Learning about Bluetooth’s functioning isn’t the real reason you’re here.

So what is the reason?

Ultimately, you’re tired of long headphone wires getting in your way and you’re looking for a wireless solution. That’s where Bluetooth headphones come into the picture. They are capable of connecting to your Bluetooth enabled audio devices to enhance your listening pleasure without the accompaniment of a wire slowing you down or annoying you to no end.

Not all Bluetooth devices are created equally. And at this point, just about every style of headphone has a Bluetooth version. You can get Bluetooth headphones that’re on ear, over ear, earbuds, noise cancellation, bone conduction, behind the neck, and nearly every single combination.

Keep this in mind though. Bluetooth headphones need to be charged fairly regularly, and this is especially true if you use them a lot throughout the day.

So if you’re the type of person who forgets to charge their phone all the time, you’ll likely be the kind of person who forgets to charge their Bluetooth headphones as well. In this case, you may want to avoid Bluetooth headphones altogether and stick with the wired ones.

If you want to learn how to make headphones louder you can check out our article with 6 great tips in it.

Over Ear Headphones

Man wearing over ear headphones

I never really tried to figure out why, but I personally love over ear headphones. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I dig these headphones because they not only go over the top of your head, but they completely cover your ears as well.

Why do I think that’s great?

Personally, I hate it when background noise bleeds into my awareness as I’m listening to my favorite tunes. I’m the kind of person that likes to really focus on the music. I like to sit there with my eyes closed and daydream about the songs that I’m listening to. When lots of background noise enters into my awareness, it pulls me out of the experience altogether.

Guess what?

When you have large earphones completely covering your ears you don’t have to worry about unwanted noise leaking into your perception. On the contrary, you get to kick back, relax, and enjoy your favorite classical pieces, hip-hop artists, rock ‘n roll bands, pop groups, or any other musician or musical genre that this planet has to offer.

Keep in mind that over ear headphones come in wired and wireless options. And these headphones are typically bulky and since your ears are going to be covered, they’ll undoubtedly make you sweat if it’s hot outside. So keep these things in mind.

In Ear Headphones

woman wearing earbuds

As much as I personally dig over ear headphones, I also own a pair of Skullcandy in ear headphones too.

Why bother you might be wondering?

Well, just like over ear headphones, in ear headphones definitely have their place. Or better yet, from here on out let’s call them by their typical name which is earbuds.

To me, in ear earbuds are great because they block out background noise and they’re incredibly versatile, very convenient to carry around with you, and the fact that they’re lightweight and small means that their portability rating is through the roof in my book.

Whether wired or wireless, you can fold up the wire into a tightly wound circle and stuff the earbuds in your pockets. And if they’re wireless, you can literally pop them out of your ears and put them in their charging case or stuff them in your pocketbook, backpack, pocket, fanny pack, or anything else for that matter.

There are a few things to consider about in ear headphones a.k.a. earbuds. For starters, wireless earbuds usually stay charged for about 4 to 6 hours, so they frequently need to be recharged every day. And wired earbuds could be an inconvenience if the wire is too long or too short.

Other than that, in ear headphones sometimes have ear hooks or a neckband, which makes them look slightly different than typical earbuds.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Woman wearing noise cancelling headphones

This style of headphone is ideal for anyone looking to control the amount of background noise they hear in their environment. This is different from noise isolation because in this case you can actually adjust the frequencies of the background noise in your surroundings and determine exactly how much you hear or choose to block out of your awareness.

As an example, let’s say you’re dying to listen to your favorite audiobook because you stopped at a major cliffhanger and you can’t wait to find out what happens next. The only problem is you have three young children with you running around the house all day. You’re afraid to sink deeply into your audiobook because you might not hear their cries for help.

Well, with noise cancelling headphones you have the ability to block out all of the background noise, some of the background noise, or very little to no background noise depending on your personal preferences.

So, if you really want to listen to your audiobook and still be able to hear your kids when they need you, you can adjust the noise cancelling levels so you’ll hear your audiobook with crystal clarity but you can also hear a cry for help.

Closed Back Headphones

quality pair of closed back headphones

As you are about to notice, many headphones are designed with noise cancellation or noise isolation in mind. Closed back headphones were created because they have the ability to minimize or completely block the peripheral noise from your awareness whenever you have these headphones on.

When you think about it, this is certainly a good thing in most situations. But having noise completely blocked from your awareness can also present potential negative scenarios as well, which we’ll discuss below.

The beauty of closed back headphones and their peripheral noise blocking capabilities means you can dive headfirst into your favorite talk radio programs and really focus on the information the host or hosts are discussing. You’ll leave the rest of the world blocked out from your awareness with closed back headphones on, so you can really delve deeply into the topic at hand and focus on it in its entirety because nothing in the background will be distracting you whatsoever.

On the other hand, walking through a dark alley or through a rough neighborhood with closed back headphones on at night really isn’t a good idea. You undoubtedly want to hear everything going on in the vicinity if you have no choice but to put yourself in harm’s way. Using these headphones will block your hearing altogether and potentially leave you in a vulnerable position.

Open Back Headphones

Nice pair of open back gaming headphones

I just covered closed back headphones, and now it’s time to take a brief look at open back headphones. The main difference is instead of the back of each ear cup being closed off by plastic, they actually keep them open on these headphones with wired mesh.

Why bother?

Some people prefer to have some of the sound to escape from the headphones and make its way out into the environment. They like the way the audio resonates because the headphones give off a more open and airy sound. This will make it feel like you’re actually sitting in your room listening to music through speakers, or at least that’s the best analogy that I can come up with on short notice.

What’s the point of open back headphones?

Well, this is the ideal headphones for people working in a studio setting. They’re either mastering or mixing audio, and having this additional sound leakage is what audio engineers prefer because it helps them deliver more accuracy with specific frequencies.

With closed back headphones, these frequencies have a tendency of building up and it can really throw off the sound. The open back headphones give off a flat sound without additional embellishments, which is precisely what audio engineers need to hear while mixing and mastering their latest tracks.

Wireless Earbuds

budget wireless earbuds

What can I say about wireless earbuds that will make you realize how awesome they are?

For starters, some are going to be more awesome than others which is completely understandable. If you’re going to buy wireless earbuds, you should find ones that have high quality stereo sound, Bluetooth 5.0 technology, easy pairing with multiple devices, waterproof capabilities, and a portable charging case.

Why focus on all of those features?

Simply put, without them you may end up having a terrible experience when you purchase earbuds that ultimately fail you. As you can imagine, if the sound quality stinks then you’ve basically wasted your money and you’ll likely throw them in a drawer and never use them again. And if the Bluetooth tech isn’t up to par, you’ll have a tough time streaming your favorite music and an even tougher time connecting to your smart phone, MP3 player, laptop, PC, or other audio enabled device.

Remember, wireless earbuds need to be charged fairly regularly. You’ll have to put them in the charging case at night to refill their battery power. Otherwise you could wind up with completely dead earbuds just when you were about to put on your favorite Spotify playlist while getting comfortable for a long and boring car ride.

Wired Earbuds

quality pair of lightning headphones

Just like their wireless counterpart, wired earbuds definitely hold a place in my heart. Although my high school days are long gone, when I was a teenager I would put in one of the earbuds on the side of my body that the teacher couldn’t see and listen to my favorite songs in class instead of paying attention to my schoolwork!

It’s a lot easier to get away with this now with wireless earbuds, but teachers still know when their students aren’t paying attention so be careful!

Anyway, wired earbuds are pretty great because they’re relatively inexpensive, they’re ‘lightweight; they’re ergonomically designed, and if you buy the right sized ear buds with multi-size ear tips, you’ll also find earbuds that fit incredibly comfortable within your ear canals. And if the tips are made of a soft rubbery gel-like substance, you’ll hardly even notice that they’re in your ears.

It’s not like the past where you had to stuff these huge bulky plastic earbuds in your ears that hurt like crazy. The technology has improved tremendously throughout the years.

Wired earbuds are also handy in a pinch. All you have to do is plug them into your favorite audio device and you can begin listening right away. If your wireless earbuds go dead because you forgot to charge them, you could always use your wired set as a backup and they’re usually inexpensive below $20.

Behind the Neck Headphones

behind the neck headphones

I really appreciate behind the neck headphones because they make wired and wireless versions, which is always nice because it’s great to have options. The beauty of these headphones is you literally strap them around your neck while covering your ears, so they never have to go on top of your head.

Many women like them because they don’t like over the ear headphones that have to go on top of their head because it messes their hair. Many guys are also very fond of these headphones too, so behind the neck headphones are a great choice to solve messy hair problems.

Another thing is the way the ear cups themselves are designed. They 4 have a hook on them so they firmly stay in place on your ears without constantly falling off all day long which can get very annoying.

If you’re going to buy wireless behind the neck headphones, make sure they have excellent Bluetooth connectivity. Dealing with connection problems can be a real drag when you’re trying to listen to your favorite talk radio shows or audiobooks.

And behind the neck headphones are really great for working out as well. They will firmly stay put on your ears and you can run, hike, jog, do jumping jacks, play basketball, or do just about anything else without worrying about your headphones falling off.

It’s also fantastic to not have a pain in the neck cord getting in your way.

Waterproof Headphones

Waterproof Headphones on display

The phrase waterproof headphones can be somewhat deceiving. While they do make headphones that you can literally submerge underwater up to a point without them breaking, most waterproof headphones are rated so you can get caught in a rainstorm or build up a heavy sweat while working out and you won’t short out the headphones whatsoever.

For the most part, these headphones are great for people who like to exercise in the hot sun or work out so hard that you constantly build up a massive sweat.

In the old days, your headphones would become soaked so badly that they would occasionally break. But now that they make waterproof headphones, this is never a problem even when you’re using for working out.

Lightning Headphones

quality pair of lightning headphones

This specialty product is an absolute must if you’re looking for a wired headphone for your Apple products like your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. The lightning connection is specifically designed to work with Apple devices. Without a lightning connection, you’ll have to get wireless Bluetooth headphones and you may not want them if you prefer wired devices that don’t need to be charged on a daily basis.

As you can imagine, some lightning headphones are more popular than others. The EarPods with lightning connector designed by Apple are an inexpensive yet common choice. If you go to your favorite online retailer, you’ll find many low cost earbuds with a lightning connection from independent companies.

Focus on the ones that have Apple MFi certification, because it means Apple has given them their stamp of approval.

Bone Conduction Headphones

Bone conduction earphones are a fairly new development in the world of headphones, and even though it isn’t very popular right now, its popularity is beginning to increase.

What’s the difference between regular headphones and bone conduction headphones?

Well, the bone conduction headphones use your bones, specifically the bones in your skull, to conduct sounds via the headphones.

According to some people, the sound quality provided by bone conduction headphones isn’t as good as the sound you get from regular over the ear headphones or in ear earbuds. But you can try them out for yourself and see if you like the sound, because many people feel that the audio they deliver is quite satisfactory.

You might want bone conduction headphones because they have an open design, which means you’ll be aware of everything going on around you. On the other hand, you may dislike them because they don’t provide adequate noise isolation since they’re an open headphone.

Wireless Workout Headphones

woman wearing wireless workout headphones

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that listening to music while working out often keeps you pumped up and motivated. It’s a great way to find the essential strength from within to get up early in the morning and go for a run or take a visit to your local gym or CrossFit center.

Depending on your personal style, you may prefer wireless workout headphones because they consist of the latest audio technology and you won’t have a pesky wire getting in your way while working out.

If you perform strenuous activities like weightlifting, yoga, Pilates, or other forms of exercise, having a wireless headphone available to listen to your favorite music or audio programs is an excellent option to have because it won’t get in your way or ruin your exercise session.

Wired Workout Headphones

woman wearing wired headphones

On the flipside, you might not like wireless workout headphones and prefer a wired option. In this case, it could be beneficial because you happen to be a lazy or forgetful type and you never remember to recharge your headphone batteries at the end of the day.

In essence, keeping wired workout headphones available at all times is a good thing if you’re the forgetful type. You’ll always have high quality headphones or earbuds available to listen to your favorite songs or audio programs while working out.

Sure, the wire may get in your way from time to time, but it’s a small nuisance that you’re willing to live with because you don’t have to worry about charging them and you never have to deal with Bluetooth connectivity issues either and it’s a trade-off you’re more than willing to make.

Wired Headphones for Running

man and woman running with wired headphones

Believe it or not, most people feel they’d be better off purchasing wireless headphones for running. But I feel differently on this topic. I have no problem buying wired headphones for running because I could always buy headphones that have just enough cord length.

What happens more often than not with wired headphones?

Sometimes the cord is too short and other times the cord is too long. But if you measure the amount of cord length you’ll need and then compare it to your available options, you could always find wired headphones that meet your specific parameters.

It takes a little extra work on your part, but you can avoid dealing with connectivity issues, battery problems, and every other potential problem that goes along with owning wireless headphones.

Experience Different Types of Headphones for All Occasions

Are you the kind of person that likes to judge a book by its cover?

Well, when it comes to various types of headphones you have to keep an open mind. You never know what you’re going to get until you spend time reading about the numerous types of headphone options currently available at this moment.

I covered wired earbuds, wireless earbuds, wireless headphones, over ear headphones, in ear headphones, and many others. Believe it or not, I’ve only scratched the surface on this topic. I didn’t get into gaming headphones, motorcycle headphones, or other things of that nature.


What’s the perfect type of headphones to live up to your personal preferences?

Use this information to discover the answer to this question today.

Always remember that your hearing is important and you should always listen at levels that are not damaging to your hearing.

Avatar for Author at The Sound Junky

I have spent enough time around musical instruments & musicians to pass on some useful information. When I'm not rocking out to a sick beat on my stereo, you will find me sitting on a bean bag with a guitar trying to emulate the prowess of the great Mr Eric Clapton.